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Astana suspend Miguel Angel Lopez after Spanish reports links him to drug trafficking case

ETNA PIAZZALE RIFUGIO SAPIENZA ITALY MAY 10 LR Miguel ngel Lpez Moreno of Colombia and Team Astana Qazaqstan talks with Aleksandr Vinokrov of Kazakhstan team Team manager prior to abandon the race during the 105th Giro dItalia 2022 Stage 4 a 172km stage from Avola to Etna Piazzale Rifugio Sapienza 1899m Giro WorldTour on May 10 2022 in Etna Piazzale Rifugio Sapienza Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Astana Qazaqstan have suspended Miguel Angel López from any activity within the team after reports in Spain suggested he is under investigation for links to Dr. Marcos Maynar Mariño, who was arrested in May for alleged crimes of drug trafficking and money laundering.

Astana Qazaqstan claimed they know nothing about the investigation or a report (opens in new tab) by the Ciclo21.com website that López was stopped and questioned by the Central Operational Unit (UCO), part of the Judicial Police Service of the Spanish Civil Guard on his arrival in Madrid from Colombia on Thursday.  

“The news that was spread in the media yesterday evening caught us by surprise, and at the moment we do not have any details,” Astana Qazaqstan said in a brief announcement on their social media on Friday morning. 

“In this regard, the team decided to suspend Miguel Angel López from any activity within the team until all the circumstances of the case are clarified.” 

Maynar was arrested on May 11th, one day after López’s surprise withdrawal from the Giro d’Italia due to a thigh injury. At the time the Astana Qazaqstan team said they were surprised by his decision to climb early in stage 4 to Etna, believing his injury was not serious. 

López has not ridden since the Giro d’Italia but was expected to return at the Prueba Villafranca-Clásica de Ordizia on Monday and then lead Astana Qazaqstan at the Vuelta a Espana. However his suspension could now mean he is not selected for the Spanish Grand Tour that starts on August 19. 

López returned to Astana Qazaqstan after a controversial season at Movistar, where he quit the Vuelta a Espana while third overall after a dispute during stage 20 about team leadership. He rode for Astana between 2015 and 2020. He finished third overall in both the Vuelta and the Giro d’Italia. He was sixth in the 2020 Tour de France.

López was reportedly implicated in the Maynar investigation in May but according to Ciclo21.com, he is now being investigated on suspicion of distribution of unauthorised medicines in Spain.

Via his lawyers, who spoke to the Spanish Efe news agency, López denied any wrongdoing.

"He flatly denies having any relationship or participation in any criminal act related to the distribution of unauthorized medicines or any other product referred to in the news published yesterday," Efe quoted his lawyers as saying.

"From the point of view of sports ethics, he has always been respectful of the rules that regulate it, as evidenced by his professional career. Despite the surprise at the situation, he is convinced all the extremes will be clarified."

Maynar has a long and controversial past with cycling and sports medicine. He has been linked to a series of investigations involving banned substances and claims to have worked as a team doctor for the Fassa Bortolo team and in other sports. He still promotes his skills on training, nutrition and supplements via social media. 

In 2004 the Spanish Guardia Civil investigated the online sale of steroids and other drugs. He escaped any sanction by claiming the products found were for medical research.

Maynar was arrested but freed on bail in May, with a court hearing expected in the autumn. López is also now expected in court at the same time. 

“I hope they don't convict me; because of what may have been a problem, I was not aware,” Maynar was reported as saying by Spanish media after being released. 

“I have never been convicted. It is always said that they accuse me, but it is never said that I have been acquitted. I, thank God, do not have a criminal record … My conscience is clear.”  

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Stephen Farrand
Stephen Farrand

Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.